Updated: July 3, 2022 1:56:29 am
Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair, arrested on the charge of hurting religious sentiments following a complaint over a 2018 tweet, was sent to judicial custody Saturday for 14 days. The prosecutor opposed his bail application, saying an investigation was underway into donations he allegedly received from abroad including Pakistan.
The Delhi Police, which produced Zubair before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Savaria at the end of his four-day police custody, said three new sections had been added to the FIR against him: IPC 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), IPC 120 (B) (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and section 35 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).
Police did not seek extension of his custody and instead asked that he be sent to 14-day judicial custody. The prosecution said it may seek Zubair’s custody in the future.
CMM Savaria later denied bail to Zubair, remanding him to judicial custody for 14 days.
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A row erupted when, more than three hours before the CMM pronounced the order, DCP (Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations) KPS Malhotra announced that Zubair’s bail plea had been rejected.
He retracted his statement after Advocate Soutik Banerjee, representing Zubair, questioned how the police learnt of the order even before it was pronounced. Banerjee called it “scandalous”. DCP Malhotra later claimed he “misheard” the investigating officer.
Additional Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava told the court that Zubair “accepted payments through RazorPay from Pakistan, Syria, Australia, Singapore, UAE, which all require further investigation”.
“If you accept something – donation, etc from a person of foreign country – then it’s a contravention. As per our CDR analysis, he has accepted through Razor gateway, from Pakistan, Syria, etc which… require further investigation,” Shrivastava said.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, who appeared for Zubair, said police had “misled the court” as they released a statement which mentioned that donations were accepted by the media company Pravda while police took Zubair’s name in court as the recipient of the donations.
“Pravda is a section 8 company. Funds are going as per their update. See if there is one financial transaction of a foreign company. This power (of the police) is not given to mislead the court. Throw something in the media to say ‘oh something is happening’. Say that foreign money is there. All transactions are proved. These are financial transactions. How can they make a submission (that) it has gone into my account? They are saying I am a journalist, I cannot receive FCRA. This is to the company, not to me,” Grover said.
The prosecutor told the court that Zubair was the director of the company.
“You are the director. Becoming a journalist is not a crime, doing such type of things is a crime and you deserve to be prosecuted,” Shrivastava said.
Grover said it was “not a crime to be a director” and that no notice was served to the company.
“A company taking funds is not a violation of FCRA. You have not issued notice to Pravda. You said the journalist took (funds) and then said Pravda. Facts have been muddled up. This is why we need a fact checker in this country,” she said.
The prosecutor said the donations will be investigated and they need access to Zubair’s phone to get further details on the contributions.
Grover said bank account transactions can be seen instead as they contain details of every transaction.
She maintained that the “entire exercise is mala fide in nature and is a non-prosecutable action of the FIR”.
Grover told the court that the tweet – for which Zubair was arrested — was made from an Android phone and not a laptop. She said the phone was later stolen and a report had been filed in this regard.
“This is not a damp squib, it is a dead-end,” she said
Shrivastava, on the other hand, said Zubair had formatted his phone and also changed his SIM before turning up for the investigation.
On allegations that Zubair edited the still image, Grover told the court that the prosecution “must not play games” and that the film Kisi Se Na Kehna, from which the still image was used, could be found on a streaming platform which was now “trending, courtesy CyPad”.
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